Salomon Kalou scored a goal in each half Wednesday to lead Chelsea to a 4-0 win over Atletico Madrid and the verge of a place in the next round of the Champions League.
After two 1-0 wins, Chelsea endured a tough opening half hour when the Spanish side hit three on-target shots to none before dominating for the first time in this season’s tournament.
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Kalou had already had an effort saved and caused a freak goal by Frank Lampard to be ruled out for offside before he connected with Ashley Cole’s 41st-minute cross along the edge of the six-yard box to send a shot high into the net.
Kalou, who was filling in for his suspended Ivory Coast teammate Didier Drogba, headed in a corner 11 minutes later before Lampard made it 3-0 in the 69th and Luis Perea headed in an injury-time own goal.
“After the first goal from Kalou, we had a good match,” Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti said. “Salomon Kalou is an important player for us without Drogba. He made a big mistake but he maintained good motivation.”
Chelsea now has a maximum nine points in Group D, three more than second-place FC Porto and eight more than Atletico, which hosts the Blues next on Nov. 3.
“We are now in control of this group but we are aiming to arrive in first place,” Ancelotti said. “It is important for the future to finish in first place.”
Atletico faded after its bright opening, when Diego Forlan was especially dangerous, and Chelsea’s opening goal seemed to hit the confidence of a team enduring its worst start to a Spanish league season since 1994-95.
“I’m not just thinking about the group in the Champions League,” Atletico coach Adel Resino said. “I’m thinking about the league back home. When you are down and confidence is low, things go against you.”
The Blues also had Nicolas Anelka hit the bar in the second half in a match that, in keeping with their recent erratic form of two wins and two losses in four games, was an entertaining one featuring slick and scrappy play in equal measure.
But most of the quality came from Chelsea and the win was so comfortable that Ancelotti was able to withdraw Kalou, Cole and Anelka with more than 10 minutes left to keep them fresh for Saturday’s Premier League match with Blackburn.
Chelsea can return to the top of the English league with victory.
Sergio Aguero did have a chance to get a goal back for Atletico in the 57th when he was put through. He and goalkeeper Petr Cech faced each other like gunfighters waiting to see who drew first, but the Argentina forward hesitated and got too close to Cech, who saved with his legs.
Atletico goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo had been drawn into a save by Lampard in the first minute but Forlan forced Cech into action with a diving header and Aguero shot into the side-netting.
Ancelotti threw his arms in the air in despair moments later because of the narrow offside decision against Kalou. Lampard punted a free kick 40 meters (yards) forward toward the far post, where it floated over Asenjo and the offside Kalou into the net.
And Ancelotti was again frustrated when Kalou shot wide following a slick move featuring Michael Essien, Deco and Michael Ballack and then slalomed through on the right only for Asenjo to dive and put the ball past the post.
Kalou seemed set for a frustrating evening when he was again in an offside position right in front of goal and unable to redirect John Terry’s wayward header on target, but he finally scored four minutes later.
Cole passed infield to Lampard and Ballack let a pass from the midfielder slip through his legs and go back to the England fullback, who sent in a cross that Kalou smashed in from close range.
The other goals were simpler.
Kalou headed in unmarked when Lampard’s simple corner kick sailed straight to him just outside the six-yard box and Lampard then scored from about 20 meters (yards) following a free kick move.
With moments left, Perea headed in a curling free kick by substitute Florent Malouda.
Lampard’s goal was his 133rd for Chelsea and took him above England great Jimmy Greaves in the club’s list of all-time scorers. Bobby Tambling leads with 202.
“Lampard is not only important for the score,” Ancelotti said. “He is important for his work over 90 minutes. His work for the team is very generous. He is an unselfish player.
“If he scores, it is better, but I want to speak about Lampard for his work, not his goal.”